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Stronger Colorado GDL Laws Could Cut Teen Driving Deaths

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GDL law in Colorado

Colorado’s Graduated Driver Licensing Law, courtesy Governors Highway Safety Association

Colorado ranks right in the middle of the states and the District of Columbia — No. 26 — on a list of which ones are the most and the least safe for teen drivers. The study by CarInsurance.com analyzed safety and insurance factors.

States that are the safest for teens to drive in are Massachusetts, Maryland, and Alaska, which rank first, second, and third, respectively. On the other end of the list, Montana, North Dakota, and Louisiana are the least safe for teen drivers, and appear at 51, 50, and 49 on the list.

What’s Considered Unsafe Driving by Teens?

As Mike Carraggi wrote for Foxborough Patch, CarInsurance.com looked at five metrics to determine its rankings. It gave:

  • A 30% weight to teen crashes resulting in death
  • A 20% weight to each of the following: teen texting and e-mailing while driving, teen drinking and driving, and the leniency of a state’s graduated drivers licensing laws (GDLs)
  • A 10% weight to the cost of insurance

The company said 13 states could reduce their rate of fatal crashes among teens by a half or more if they would adopt the five strongest GDLs.

Stronger Learner’s Permit Laws

An interactive map on the CarInsurance.com map estimates that Colorado could cut its teen driver fatality rate by 32% by having stricter GDLs (it now has 28 teen driving fatalities per 100,000). Colorado is in the lowest tier (third) tier of such reductions. The second tier of states could reduce fatal crashes among teens by 33% to 43%, and the highest tier is of states that could cut their fatal teen crash rate by 44% of more with stricter GDL laws. You can see each state’s GDLs, listed as of May 2016 by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA).

Back in 2014, this blog wrote about a report by Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety that recommended that Colorado strengthen its GDL law by making 16 the minimum age for getting a learner’s permit. According to GHSA, Colorado only requires a teen to be 16 to get such a permit if he or she is not taking driver’s education or in a driver awareness program. Otherwise, the teen can be 15 or 15 1/2, respectively. Contrast this with Massachusetts (the state with the safest driving environment for teens), which requires all teens be 16 in order to get a learner’s permit; and with Montana (the state with the least safe driving environment for teens), which allows  learner’s permits at age 14 1/2.

Teen Driving Behavior

CarInsurance.com also comissioned a survey of 500 parents of teen drivers to learn more about teen driving behavior. The survey found, among other things, that fully 59% of parents surveyed have allowed their teens to break at least one GDL rule. The survey  found that 64% of those parents would rate their teen’s driving as “fairly scary.”

The survey of parents found that the following percentages of parents surveyed have allowed their teens to break these GDL provisions (respondents selected all that applied):

  • Driving friends: 33%
  • Driving at night: 30%
  • Using cellphone: 29%
  • Driving curfew: 27%
  • Driving unsupervised (if supervision is required by state): 19%
  • None: 41%

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